Monday, May 29, 2006


Geoffery and Leodis finished fifth at the National Catholic Forensic League championships. They bowed out in quarters to the eventual champion, Highland of St. Lake City. This was the best any Central High team has ever done at a national championship.

But still, I'm pissed. The guys basically tried to lose that Highland round.

This is a common tactic among our kids, believe it or not. They play it off as arrogance, like they're making some kind of a statement about their superiority. Like they're too good for the competition, that their effort isn't worth the challenge.

But I think it's a race/class issue. They sabotage stuff so that they'll have an excuse for failing. I think it gives them an illusion of control. Instead of giving a best effort and taking a chance at defeat, they decide to just go for the loss. That way it's their choice.

But under this is the obvious believe, however subconscious, that they're inferior, that they're bound to lose no matter how hard they try.

If they lose for not trying, according to this lack of reasoning, at least then they can play the sour grapes card. Somehow that breaths life and pride into their ghetto also-ran ribbons.

I know they're going to be pissed reading this, and they'll come up with a thousand reasons why my interpretation is wrong. And in Leodis's case, a lot of those reasons are probably true. He was sick of debate. And if you don't like what you're doing, it's kind of hard to succeed at it.

Yet, I must say, Leodis delivers this mea culpa valedictorian speech on Wednesday about how selfish he is and how he wants to help others. Then he turns around and farts in the face of a person who has given selflessly of herself for him for the past several years.

The person whose feelings are most hurt by the whole thing is Jane, the coach. After we learned of their loss, she said to me, "I just wanted semis so bad." That woman works so hard to get those kids to these tournaments, and they thank her by deciding they don't care, and trying to lose.

But Geoffery? Ain't no excuse for his bullshit. He's the best debater I've ever seen, and he usually has the taste for blood. I know he wants to win.

But then when Geoffery heard last night that Highland went on to win the whole thing he said, "If I'd known they'd win, I would have tried harder to knock them out."

I watched three of the rebuttal speeches in that round, and I'm convinced they would have won if they had only wanted it. The other team had not one warranted, substantiated argument against ours.

But Geoffery delivered his final speech -- the last speech of his high school career -- sitting down, with almost complete apathy. He had shown up for competition that morning in baggy pants, an untucked shirt and a do-rag.


I just want to ring his neck.

Now Highland gets to go home believing they're the best. Sure, Geoffery can ride the train home thinking he's better. And Jane and I might even believe him. But that's all in our three little heads. All the glory is going to the supposedly inferior team. Everyone in the country believes that Highland is the best. And they ain't thinking shit about little Geoffery Stone and his delusions of grandeur.

I hope Geoffery takes something out of this when he goes to debate for Oklahoma next year. I hope he remembers that every opponent could be the eventual champion. And that if he applies himself every single round, one of these days that champion will be him.



heidi said...

Self-sabotage isn't just a race/class issue, Joe. I'm guilty of doing the same thing, at a basic level, that you're attributing to Geoffery and Leodis. I've done it in different settings, but I've folded and run, pretended I didn't care, disappointed myself and let down or angered others. And succeeding can be just as scary as trying your best and failing.

I can see where race and class issues could contribute to the problem, but it's not unique to that.

Brad said...

Of course you're pissed, Joe. They let you down. But keep in mind that they're young. In 20 years they may look back on this and think about how it might have gone differently.

And, as Heidi aptly put it, I too "folded and ran," quite recently, but I can't blame it on youth, race or class--just fear. It happens sometimes.

Evan said...


Maybe it is a race/class issue, but I don't think so. I think it has everything to do with being human. I think Nelson Mandela once said that it isn't failure that we fear most, but our own success.

And I went golfing tonight. Do you have any idea how many times I've choked and three-putted when I should have holed out in one?

And what was the demon you wrestled with all through writing Cross-X?

There but for the grace of god go i.

Anonymous said...

Gotta go with the concensus here Joe. I see my white kids, my own flesh and blood, do the same thing. And I didn't realize I was doing it myself until I interviewed an up-by-his-bootstraps (black) man, who told me, “So many times in life, I’ve seen people make a lot of excuses for not being successful. But I was taught as a child, ‘As a man thinketh, so he is.’”